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According to Dictionary.com, conflict is simply defined as “to come into collision or disagreement; be contradictory, at variance, or in opposition; clash,” but there is nothing simple when dealing with conflict. Conflict happens in everyday life with friends and family, as well as in the workplace. This paper will explore why it is important to understand conflict and why it happens in order to resolve it. Because conflict happens so frequently around the world, people must try to comprehend it in order to have successful relationships. It is said that conflict “at work was commonly viewed as something similar to the arrival of bad weather, not particularly welcomed, but inevitable nonetheless,” (Currie, 2017).
Conflict can be internal or external, meaning that it can be within a person, or involving more than one person. Internal conflict can be described as conflict that takes place within a person’s mind, examples of internal conflict include trying to make a hard decision or try to overcome a feeling. Internal conflicts are usually referred to a “character versus self” conflict. A typical example of this is cognitive dissonance, which is the conflict a person may have when their attitudes and feelings do not relate to their behavior. While, external conflicts take place between a person and someone something else. Usually external conflicts are between “character versus character, character versus nature, or character versus society,” (Virgina.gov, 2010).
An example of character versus character conflict is coworkers arguing about how to complete a task in the most efficient way. An example of a character versus nature is a hurricane destroying a family’s house. Lastly, an example of man versus society is people disregarding stereotypes and doing what makes them happy, causing backlash from others. Internal conflict can be just as hard to deal with as external conflict, if not harder in some circumstances. Internal conflicts can be hard for an individual to recognize, since this type of conflict usually deals with emotions such as fear, love, and issues that the person maybe has not identified.
In the article “An Eye for an Eye Will Make the Whole World Blind: Conflict Escalation into Workplace Bullying and the Role of Distributive Conflict Behavior,” by Elfi Baillian and colleagues, readers learn about the various types of conflict than can arise. The article talks about two types of conflict and ways it can escalate. The two types of conflict the article mentions is task conflict and relationship conflict. Task conflict “refers to a factual disagreement about how particular aspects of the tasks are to be accomplished,” (Baillian, 2016), while relationship conflict “involves perceived tension, annoyance, and animosity about personal differences such as values, attitudes, preferences, and personality,” (Baillian, 2016). In studies conducted by the authors, they found that relationship conflicts usually had a negative impact on job performance, while task conflicts only had a negative outcome when they were related to relationship conflicts.
Sometimes tasks conflicts evolve into relationship conflicts, because it might start as a simple disagreement about how a task should be completed. Then, employees get mad at one another for this disagreement, growing into more of a relationship conflict because of this tension. Sometimes relationship conflict can end up in the focus not even being on the issue, it can end up focusing on personal needs. In her article, Daphne Adams states that in an organization “when conflicting parties push the pursuit of their own interest excessively, the organizations goals end up compromised.” This can be considered an example of depersonalization, which is “negative attitudes toward supervisor, subordinates, colleagues, clients, and the other people that one has to work with,” (Rahim, 2016).
There are certain jobs that have stress associated with them, such as salespeople. Salespeople have to meet certain quotas in order to keep their job, which adds more stress to getting work related tasks done. This can lead to interpersonal conflict because the workers are already stressing out because of their job. According to Fernando Jaramillo and his colleagues, “Interpersonal conflict is one of the most important stressors at work due to its pervasive effect on employee emotions and team work.” Conflict is an inevitable part of life, and many factors can lead to it. In the article, “Reducing Job Burnout Through Effective Conflict Management Strategy” by M. Afzalur Rahim, it says that conflict happens when two or more people come in contact and may get in the way of one’s goals. Conflict, in the workplace or not, can range from a simple misunderstanding to physical violence.
There are different kinds of interpersonal conflict, there is overt and covert behavior. Overt is more up front and direct, like calling someone a bad word or possibly getting violent with them. While, covert is more passive, for example, gossiping about a coworker. As mentioned earlier, relationship conflict can grow into more of an irrational situation. If these tensions escalate, it can lead to workplace bullying. With relationship conflict comes tension and high emotions, causing employees to pick on a certain person.
In the workplace, women are more likely to be bullied. Jacqueline Gilbert and her colleagues stated that “More than half of targets in workplace bullying cases are women. A potential explanation is that stereotypes regarding their behavior (in some cases) remain stubborn.” A reason for women being targets is if they do not act accordingly with the typical gender stereotype. Women are supposed to be kind, gentle, and emotional, so when they display behavior that may be considered more “masculine,” others may not understand, overall, causing conflict. The article “Gender, Conflict, and Workplace Bullying: Is Civility Policy the Silver Bullet?” by Gilbert et al., also says that “Moreover, when women display incongruent role behaviors they may be punished. However, the research lacks in describing what may happen when women attempt to defend themselves from a bullying attack, and, if any form of organizational intervention can improve the situation” (Gilbert, 2013).
In more recent times, bullying does not have to be in person. Bullying people on social media and through different internet platforms has become more common. Bullying on social media means it is harder for people to escape, since they cannot just leave work or school to get away from the attacks, if they have their phone on them they are still connected to their bullies. Sometimes there does not even have to be conflict between two people to lead to bullying. A lot of reasons why people like to bully others is due to their own insecurities and lack of personal achievement, which is an internal conflict.
A negative aspect of senseless conflict in the workplace is that it is a waste of time and resources. In the online article “Positive & Negative Consequences of Conflict in Organizations” by Daphne Adams, it says “The business may lose precious time and resources at times of conflict. Instead of concentrating on meeting their objectives, employees waste time on divisive issues… Wrangles, stress and emotional confrontations reduce the workers’ productivity, and eventually, the profitability of the business.”
In extreme cases, conflict can lead to war between countries, even within countries. The American Civil War began in April of 1861 and continued until April of 1865. In the Article “Causes of the Civil War” published in the issue America’s Civil War, it explains that there were many reasons for the North and South to have a war, the main reason was the differing opinions on slavery. Other reasons were the Dred Scott decision, the struggle between state and federal governments, the abolitionist movement, the Missouri Compromise, and more. This war is a prime example of how differences can escalate into much more. This is an obvious example of how differences can lead to violence, causing about 620,000 deaths of American soldiers.
In other instances, acts of terror can lead to conflict, such as the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. Since the terrorist attack, there has been conflict (internal and external) between people assuming every Muslim has something to do with terrorism. American people believe this stereotype, which can cause overt and covert behavior against people of this religion. Whether it be name calling or being rude to people of this religion or just making judgements internally based on the stereotype. This causes conflict between people.
There are many different ways for an individual to handle conflict. As learned in class, there are different conflict-resolution strategies such as collaborating, compromising, accommodating, competing/forcing, and avoiding. Collaborating emphasizes the “I win, you win” outcome of resolving conflict, while compromising is easily seen as “both win some, and both lose some.” Accommodating is “I lose, you win,” competing/forcing is “I win, you lose,” and lastly, avoiding is “I lose, you lose.” The class textbook says that “no skill is more important for organizational effectiveness than the constructive management of conflict,” (Robbins, 2012). In order to resolve conflict, it is necessary for people to pool together all of their interpersonal skills. The book mentions that conflict is often a result of poor communication, so more times than not if people became more effective in communication, workplace conflict could be lessened. The scholarly article, “Reducing Job Burnout Through Effective Conflict Management Strategy” by M. Afzalur Rahim, outlines the many different styles of handling interpersonal conflict. The five styles that the article discusses are the integrating style, obliging style, dominating style, avoiding style, and compromising style. The styles that the article outlines are all related to the ones discussed in the textbook.
The textbook Training in Interpersonal Skills: Tips for Managing People at Work by Stephen Robbins and Phillip L. Hunsaker, outline key conflict management skills. They are to “determine your preferred conflict managing style, be judicious in selecting the conflicts you want to handle, evaluate the key players, assess the source of conflict, know your options, select the ‘best’ option,” (Robbins, 2012).
Previously conflict in the workplace was considered to be very corrupt. In recent years, Human Resource management has had a huge effect on how people recognize and fix organizational conflict. In the scholarly article, “The Management of Workplace Conﬂict: Contrasting Pathways in the HRM Literature” by Denise Currie and her coworkers, it states “the new breed of HR manager views workplace conﬂict in an entirely different light from personnel managers of the 1960s and 1970s. The phlegmatic approach of old-style personnel management towards employment disputes is discarded.” Since human resource managers’ jobs focus on all employees’ welfare, they recognize that conflict has an impact on the organization’s productivity. If people are disagreeing and cannot come to an agreement, that may be when a human resource manager steps in and tries to help the employees come to a consensus. Human resource managers are trained in many different interpersonal skills, are more than capable of helping people to come to conclusion.
Conflict does not always have a negative outcome. The textbook says that conflict “stimulates creativity, innovation, and change,” (Robbins, 2012). Conflict allows different ideas to be heard before making one final decision. This usually leads to the best possible outcome. This allows employees to explore the full decision making process and figure out the possible issues and benefits involved. Another positive aspect of conflict is goal congruence. Goal congruence is good because it is “a review of the goals and objectives of the business to meet the needs of conflicting parties may result into achievement of goal congruence and coherence in operations…forces the organizations leadership to realign its objectives towards common goals in order to foster teamwork amongst competing parties,” (Adams, 2018).
Because conflict happens so frequently among individuals, people must try to comprehend it in order to have successful relationships. Conflict happens every day, whether it be an internal conflict or between external forces. In order to have successful relationships people need to get to the root of the issue and try to find a solution where both end up satisfied at the end. People should not try to avoid conflict because that will only make the situation worse, it is better to be prepared since it is inevitable. Conflict helps people grow and can create necessary change which is a positive aspect. Overall, I think that conflict can simply be fixed through effective communication.
- Adams, D. (2018, June 29). Positive & Negative Consequences of Conflict in Organizations. Retrieved from https://smallbusiness.chron.com/positive-negative-consequences-conflict-organizations-10254.html
- Baillien, E., Camps, J., Van den Broeck, A., Stouten, J., Godderis, L., Sercu, M., & De Witte, H. (2016). An Eye for an Eye Will Make the Whole World Blind: Conflict Escalation into Workplace Bullying and the Role of Distributive Conflict Behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 137(2), 415–429. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-015-2563-y
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- Jaramillo, F., Mulki, J. P., & Boles, J. S. (2011). Workplace Stressors, Job Attitude, and Job Behaviors: Is Interpersonal Conflict the Missing Link? Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 31(3), 339–356. Retrieved from http://0- search.ebscohost.com.wildpac.wne.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=buh&AN=63700722 &site=ehost-live
- Liu, Y., Wang, Z., Quan, S., & Li, M. (2017). The effect of positive affect on conflict resolution: Modulated by approach-motivational intensity. Cognition & Emotion, 31(1), 69–82. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2015.1081874
- O’Connell, M. R. (2014, February 16). Conflict’s Positive and Negative Aspects. Retrieved from https://viaconflict.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/conflicts-positive-and-negative-aspects/
- Rahim, M. A. (2016). Reducing Job Burnout through Effective Conflict Management Strategy. Current Topics in Management, 18, 201–212. Retrieved from http://0- search.ebscohost.com.wildpac.wne.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=buh&AN=119768342&site=ehost-live
- Robbins, S. P., & Hunsaker, P. L. (2012). Training in Interpersonal Skills: Tips for Managing People at Work. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
- Virginia.Gov. (n.d.). Lesson Skill: Identifying internal and external conflict. Retrieved from http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/standards_docs/english/2010/lesson_plans/reading/fiction/6-8/20_6-8_readingfiction_identfyingintenaland_externalconflict.pdf
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